I've been thinking about Houston Aeros coach Mike Yeo as a candidate for the open head coach job with the Wild.
Obviously he did a great job in Houston this year, his first with the team/organization.
And, you want to reward great jobs, and you also need a new head coach.
I'd like to see the Wild commit to a younger team. I'd like them to let the majority of their UFAs walk and NOT replace all of them with UFAs in July. I'd like the Wild to go into camp with several spots open, and with the intent to fill them with kids.
Yes, that likely means you're not going to go very far in the '11-12 season. Not taking anything away from the kids in our system, but they're still not the most offensively-skilled group of players. So they don't represent an obvious uptick in scoring at the NHL level.
And that's okay. But the Wild needs top-end scoring talent. Bad. Of course, every team would take more top-end scoring talent. But the Wild has basically none.
Think about it: how many Wild players would you take in the first five rounds of your fantasy draft? Any? Maybe Burns? Maaaybe Mikko? Maaaaaaybe Zidlicky? Q.E.D.
The Wild is massively lacking in top-end scoring talent. The Wild is well-stocked in role players and guys who could make a claim on a 2nd line spot, if the first line was a legit NHL scoring line. And goalies. The Wild is set in goal with Backstrom, Hackett, Endras and Kuemper right now. So set, in fact, that perhaps they don't all stay with the Wild very long.
But, all of that speaks to the Wild either needing to spend (read: overpay) again in free agency to make a splash - but still likely end up right in the same limbo they're in now where they're just good enough to finish outside the money picks in the 2012 draft - or going young and taking their lumps.
To me, we've done the UFA route. Did Matt Cullen get us to the promised land? We sure paid him a handsome amount of money. If we continue to go that route, continuing to spend to the cap in the process, and continue to end up in this low-double-digit draft position, then we're staying static. That's a self-perpetuating cycle. Maybe you sneak into the playoffs in the odd year. But that's about it.
So, I'm comfortable going with the kids, maybe finishing about where we would otherwise, but equally maybe finishing worse. But finishing worse means getting a higher draft pick and the chance at a stud who gives me someone to be really excited about immediately.
In other words, I'm hoping the Wild goes with a youth movement. If that's the case, then Yeo has certainly offered evidence that he can work with a young team. And he'd obviously know any players who get promoted from Houston next season. I think that would be a great environment for him, and I wouldn't have any problem with his lack of NHL head coaching experience (even following in Richards' footsteps, such as they are) in case Fletcher's worried about the optics.
But, if Leipold wants to try to get in the playoffs at any cost and instructs Fletcher to go after some legit scorers in July, then I'd prefer to keep Yeo in Houston where we know he can have a positive effect on the kids. If the Wild goes that way this summer, then I'd prefer we get a MacTavish or Hitchcock to try to put lipstick on the pig, and not waste Yeo. I mean, that scenario is essentially the same scenario Todd Richards was in and I think it's safe to say he was a lame duck from day one given the lack of talent he had to work with.
Obviously Yeo has earned the audition for Wild's head coach this season, and I'm glad Fletcher recognizes it and is acting on it. But I think there are pros to keeping Yeo in Houston for another season, depending on what Fletcher's marching orders are from the big man.